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Geopolitics

Kuril Islands, Why Russia's Conflict With Japan Matters In Ukraine

Over the past two months, as tensions rose in Ukraine, Russian has launched new missiles from the contested islands north of Japan. Kyiv and Tokyo have made it clear that they are firmly aligned with each other and with Washington. Moscow's eastern flank opens major strategic questions, including China's role.

American submarine monitored Russian exercises in the Kuril Islands

American submarine monitored Russian exercises in the Kuril Islands

U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr
Petro Shevchenko

-Analysis-

KYIV — Even with everyone's attention at the Russian-Ukrainian border, tensions 5,000 miles to the east between Moscow and Tokyo over the contested Kuril Islands are not abating. And inevitably the conflicts are connected.

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he will "persistently continue" negotiations with Moscow on the return of the Northern Territories (four islands in the Southern Ridge). The United States, Japan's main ally, has publicly supported the demands, recognizing Tokyo's sovereignty over the islands due north of the capital and off the eastern coast of Russia's Far East territories.

The Russians have responded with saber rattling, starting military exercises in the Kuril Islands, which prompted an indignant response from Tokyo and a resolution approved by the Japanese parliament in support of Ukraine against the backdrop of the fight with Russia.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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